Utah counties count provisional, absentee ballots

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 4:04 PM


SALT LAKE CITY— Elections officials across Utah on Wednesday counted thousands of provisional and absentee ballots cast by voters in the general election — the results of which won’t be known for two weeks — but said they doubted the election’s winners and losers would change despite the sheer number of ballots still to be processed.

Two big Utah races were particularly close, with Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson declaring victory in the 4th Congressional District over Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love by just 2,646 votes. Utah voters also were divided over whether some of the state’s severance tax revenue from mining, oil and gas companies should be deposited into a rainy-day fund, with 51 percent voting in favor.

How many ballots remained to be processed statewide wasn’t known Wednesday, but in Salt Lake County, the number reached nearly 43,700.

Vote totals go before a canvassing board on Nov. 20.

Utah’s general election ended with a Republican rout in just about every major race. The GOP secured wins for Gov. Gary Herbert, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and three of the state’s four congressional seats and expanded its already wide lead in the state Legislature, capturing four seats previously held by Democrats.

But in Utah’s most hotly contested U.S. House race, Matheson and Love traded leads throughout election night before Matheson declared a narrow victory. Love conceded shortly thereafter, but The Associated Press has not called the race.

Thomas said he would be surprised if the results were reversed by the addition of provisional and absentee ballots, largely because of the high number of votes that remain to be counted in Salt Lake County.

"Love didn’t do as well as she wanted to in Salt Lake County, and with the majority of ballots outstanding there, I would be surprised if those results make any difference," he said.

Nearly 12,000 provisional ballots remained to be counted in Utah County, where Love did very well, but only 2,184 of those are in District 4, according to Scott Hogensen, chief deputy clerk auditor.

The other two counties represented in District 4 — Sanpete and Juab — reported 691 ballots and 176 ballots still to be processed, respectively.

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen noted that so many people dropped off their vote-by-mail ballots at polling sites that the county had to send out additional ballot bags to collect them. At the main office, election workers fielded 12,000 telephone calls on Tuesday alone.

Overall, Salt Lake County saw a record number of people voting Tuesday, she said, even if the final number hasn’t yet been tallied.

"It was unbelievable," she said. "And we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us."

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